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MLS expansion look, major matches cement Las Vegas as ‘soccer town’

If it wasn’t already evident before the opening of Allegiant Stadium, it sure is becoming clear: Las Vegas is a soccer town.

In the first year that fans were allowed to attend events at the $2 billion stadium, two high-profile soccer matches — the Concacaf Gold Cup final between USA and Mexico and the Leagues Cup final between Liga MX’s Club Leon and Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders — drew a combined 71,014 fans, according to a Las Vegas Stadium Authority event report.

Building off that momentum is the announced match between Chelsea FC and Club America on July 16 at Allegiant Stadium and a likely matchup between Barcelona and Real Madrid in July, as well. A source indicated to the Review-Journal last month that talks were in advanced stages of a possible deal for a July date for the Barcelona-Real Madrid pairing.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Steve Hill said there’s no question that Southern Nevada and the sport are a perfect match.

“I think soccer in Las Vegas is just an absolute winner,” Hill said. “You can see the success of the soccer matches that we’ve had at Allegiant Stadium. This is a soccer town. It is a huge sport here and it’s a great draw for tourists and our guests.”

The big time pro soccer action is set to be more than just one-off events at Allegiant Stadium. Earlier this year MLS entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with billionaires Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris to potentially land the league’s 3oth franchise in the desert.

A new stadium, which is likely to end up on a portion of a plot of land on Las Vegas Boulevard and Warm Springs Road, would potentially be part of the deal. The stadium would be built to fit between 25,000-30,000 fans, Edens told the Review-Journal. That’s in line with the around 35,000 fan average attendance of the two major soccer matches at Allegiant Stadium last year.

“We’ve talked with them (Edens’ group) and I think we’ve provided them some information that may be helpful,” Hill said.

MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said the process is ongoing, but was mum on details of what has transpired since the two sides announced their agreement earlier this year.

“While we do not have a specific update at this time, MLS continues to have discussions with Wes Edens and Nassef Sawris regarding a future expansion club in Las Vegas,” Courtemanche said in an email.

Representatives for Edens and Sawiris weren’t immediately available for comment to update their Las Vegas expansion process.

Hill is bullish that the recent success of the sport in Las Vegas will bode well for the city if and when the deal is finalized between Edens’ and Sawiris’ group and the MLS.

“Having MLS here is going to be a real winner,” Hill said. “I’m excited about that moving forward, too.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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